At age 18, Ray Torres almost took his own life. Nearly 500 pounds and desperately lonely, he would’ve ended things right there had his radio been off.
“Ironically, Linda Etter singing ‘A New Life’ came on the radio right at the moment when I had the scissor to my wrist,” says Torres. “It made me think about it. It made me think about what I needed to do. So I put the blade down and called a friend, who called the police for me.”
It would still, however, be some time before he got as far as actually feeling better about himself. Coming out hadn’t helped, as he found the gay community to be less than welcoming to someone of his size. He’d made friends through the sheer force of his personality, but few of them were close — fewer still knew the depths of his depression, or that he loathed his given moniker, “Big Gay Ray.”
At age 32, Torres once again came close to death, when a doctor gave him just six months to live. “Due to my weight, my organs were failing,” Torres explains. “I was diabetic, and my blood sugar was up in the 600s. I decided to do something.” He began working out every day, and following gastric sleeve surgery, he dropped from 480 pounds to 200.
“I looked better, and I was feeling better physically,” Torres reflects. “But something was still missing: I had to learn to be selfish. Having spent so many years trying to be a people-pleaser, I finally said, this isn’t about anybody else, it’s about me. When you start taking care of yourself and keeping in mind your own self-preservation, you start to realize that you’re worth taking care of. I realized that I can still be my outgoing, people-loving self, but I would no longer would do it at the expense of myself.”
Additionally, Torres decided to pare down his group of friends to those he knew he could count on. “I don’t have a lot of friends, and that’s by design,” says Torres, who notes that he began to see the shallow people around him for who they really were. “For some people, they say the best thing is to forgive, but I say fuck that. I’ll forgive myself for letting myself go to those dark places, but forgiveness, anger or empathy for those negative people isn’t worth it, because it still gives them that space in your head, space they don’t deserve.”
“It’s not about fighting fire with fire,” Torres cautions, explaining that it’s really just about learning to let go. To do that, he recommends journaling: “Writing things down is a great form of release,” Torres advises. “Another technique — one that I never thought would work — is to write something down and burn it. It was strangely cathartic for me.”
Torres also recommends yoga, or if you can find one, something a bit less conventional: “Go to a gong lab,” he says. “What they do it is take a gong and bang it as you listen to soothing music. The vibrations really resonate deep within you, and you learn to release, release, release release. You learn to let go.”
Finally, Torres says that, no matter what hardships come your way, it’s essential to just keep moving forward. “It’s like that Christmas movie where they say, ‘one foot in front of the other’ — you just have to take that next step. When you feel like giving up, take it one more step.”